Although Advent begins next Sunday, the commercialized Christmas season epitomized by Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday deals has already started. This time of heightened buying and selling is a good foil for understanding how Christians are called to go further when they give thanks for the blessings they have received.
In American culture, with our strong sense of individualism and self-reliance, we often treat giving thanks as a two-way exchange. I give you something; you give me thanks in return. Whether it’s money, a present, power, or opportunity, the recipient is obligated to “pay back” the gift with a response of gratitude or some other item of equal value to the giver. Once this is done, the transaction is complete.God’s gifts cannot be earned or bought for there is nothing we can offer that would “pay back” the gift in full. Click To Tweet
However, the gifts we receive from God do not work this way. God’s gifts cannot be earned or bought for there is nothing we can offer that would “pay back” the gift in full. Something else in needed. To signify our reception of God’s blessings as gift and not as reward or exchange, theologian Rev. Louis-Marie Chauvet says we must give a “return gift.” This third step places the gift received into service for others in need. Only by “paying if forward” can we receive God’s blessings and give rightful praise to the One who freely gives us all that is good.